Dulwich Hamlet forward Danny Mills described his inclusion on the 2021 football blacklist as ‘truly overwhelming’ and revealed that the coronavirus pandemic has given him the chance to become more involved in the sport’s fight for legality.
Around the same time last year, the 29-year-old was playing for his Southern National League team, but when the division and the majority of non-league football were suspended in January due to the increase in Covid cases -19, this provided a moment of reflection.
Stages six and below of the football pyramid were declared null and void a month later, allowing Mills to focus his energy on fighting racism and discrimination.
After being hired by Show Racism The Red Card as an education worker, months later the Londoner was named to the Kick It Out Player Advisory Board, while the forward also had time to pitch a ‘Shout Out For Mental Health’ campaign that raised over £ 3,000 for MIND.
After a 12-month whirlwind, Mills told the PA News Agency, “When I saw the final roster and the company I was in, it was really humbling to be recognized for the work that I was in. I do.
“You don’t do it for an applause or a pat on the back, you do it because you want to try to help and educate people. When I found out it was truly overwhelming and something that will stay with me forever and that I’m extremely proud of.
“I haven’t been in this space for a long time which is why it is even more surprising and the pandemic is really the reason because in January our season ended at Dulwich Hamlet so it allowed me to think about what I wanted to do. do during this period.
“It gave me the opportunity to ask myself ‘What does the future hold for us after football?’ I’ve always been interested in the work I do now in terms of anti-racism, equality and diversity, but it was, ‘How do I get started?
“Fortunately, I was able to join Show Racism The Red Card and I haven’t really looked back. Things have progressed and accelerated really quickly, so I’m just happy to be where I am now.
Mills served on a Show Racism The Red Card panel before the pandemic, and when asking about the possibility of observing anti-racism workshops, he was pleasantly surprised to have the chance to play a more hands-on role.
The former Peterborough player initially ran virtual workshops, but more recently has been able to attend schools and organizations where he has provided training on anti-racism, equality and diversity and led discussions where questions about racism and the use of language can be asked. without fear of judgment.
Although Mills has not been the victim of racist abuse on the ground, he is motivated by what he sees as unconscious prejudice and believes education is a key tool in the fight against racism.
“What we are enabling is a safe space where young people can ask questions, and not just a safe space, but a courageous space because we don’t all know everything,” he said.
“This conversation is uncomfortable for adults, let alone children, so by allowing them to say the wrong things, it gives them the opportunity to feel safe and confident when they go out in society and in the real world. .
“Education for me is just the beginning, because education has become a bit of a fashionable world now saying, ‘We have to educate this person, this person”, but in reality we have to educate the people. people to a point where they’re actually out there and being actively anti-racist and getting the job done.
“What we’re trying to do is empower these students and adults. Are they allies? Do they allow jokes to happen in the workplace or in the playground, or do they challenge them? We only advise challenging if it is safe, but in reality we are just trying to hold these people accountable.
“And it’s not a black person’s problem, it’s not a South Asian person’s problem, it’s everyone’s problem, so we all have to be in the same boat. It’s something that we try to educate everyone. “
Mills, who has scored six goals this season, hosted numerous fundraisers in February with help from Dulwich and former club Whitehawk in response to the majority of non-league players who were sidelined for the second time in a row.
After a successful first ‘Shout Out For Mental Health’ campaign, the forward continues to advocate for people outside England’s top four leagues in his advisory board role with Kick It Out, with meetings to improve reporting of racist incidents and make mental health services more freely accessible to non-league footballers.
“We sit down quarterly and have an open and honest discussion. At the end of the day, we become one and make a decision on how we want to move forward, ”Mills said.
“Sitting on the Kick It Out board and learning more about governance really helps me and I try to use these tools to make sure I can contribute effectively.
“It gives me another chord in my bow and more fuel and knowledge for my brain, which I want. And my ultimate goal would be to work for an organization like the Football Association, the Association of Professional Footballers or the Premier League in a role of inclusion of equality and diversity or in and around this space.